Polish MPs have begun debating measures to regulate fertility treatments, sparking widespread discussions over the regulatory options and ethical considerations surrounding assisted conception.
Although the provision of IVF is lawful in Poland, it is at present unregulated. Six draft bills are being debated in the Polish Parliament, the Sejm, covering a wide range of approaches to what is a sensitive issue in this predominantly Roman Catholic country. The draft proposals vary dramatically. More liberal proposals suggest fully permitting IVF and allowing treatment costs to be reimbursed by the State. Conservative approaches, such as that proposed by the largest opposition party Law and Justice, advocate criminalising the provision of IVF and making breaches punishable by a five-year prison sentence.
Opinion on how to regulate IVF - if at all - has been voiced by interest groups across the Polish community, with the Catholic Church being among the most vocal and vigorous objectors to the procedure. In a letter seen by Reuters news agency, the country's bishops say IVF comes at a 'great human cost'. 'IVF requires the 'selection' of embryos, which means killing them. It is about selecting weaker human embryos deemed to be unfit', the letter said.
The Prime Minister and leader of the liberal Civic Platform party, Donald Tusk, responded by saying politicians owed a responsibility to Polish citizens and not to the Church. Mr Tusk is himself supporting a bill proposed by MaÅ‚gorzata Kidawa-BÅ‚oÅ„ska that permits IVF and associated procedures including embryo freezing for married couples and those in heterosexual relationships. The bill also includes provisions for the procedure to be paid for by the National Health Fund.
Mr Tusk pledged in his 2006 election campaign to ensure availability and universal access to IVF, which is provided by approximately 40 centres throughout Poland. Of those only half report the number of treatments, indicating the use of IVF may be higher than statistics indicate. At around 8000 zÅ‚otys, IVF currently costs more than double the average monthly income in Poland. 'If we decide on IVF then we cannot leave it as an exclusive method available only to the affluent', said Mr Tusk.
The President, Bronislaw Komorowski, a Catholic himself, has called for a compromise between Christian values and the wishes of 'many, often desperate couples, seeking a way to have a child'. Opinion polls suggest many Poles favour a more liberal approach, allowing IVF for married couples.